Nothing could heartwarm the spinster aunt–cum–plucky breast cancer survivor more than to see the vile Komen Foundation getting raked over the coals and scrutinized and vilified in the mainstream. It’s about fucking time.
So it is fair to ask: Just what are the scientific and medical standards to which the Susan G. Komen Foundation adheres, if any? Why would a breast cancer organization hire staff and elect board members that misrepresent science and facts? Can you trust them to give you sound information about breast cancer? And can you trust them with investing your money in the best possible efforts to end breast cancer? — Jodi Jackson, RH Reality Check.
If you missed it, the story so far:
1. Komen withdraws $600,000 in funding from Planned Parenthood, citing a policy that prohibits Komen’s support of any organization that is the subject of an investigation (Planned Parenthood is currently being harassed by House Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations Chairman Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), who has launched a politically-motivated, trumped-up “inquiry” into whether PP has used federal funds for abortion services).
2. Komen’s Senior Vice President for Policy turns out to be ultraconservative antifeminist Georgia gubernatorial washout Karen Handel, who thinks shocked Planned Parenthood supporters should “cry me a river” (click the thumbnail for a screencap of the offending retweet via @JessicaValenti). Handel is an anti-choice right-winger of the first water. In her gubernatorial campaign she pledged to “eliminate” grants to Planned Parenthood.
3. Outcry is substantial. I just wish it went a little deeper.
Deeper than what, you ask? Well, right now the principle criticism of Komen is that Planned Parenthood used the Komen cash to administer breast cancer screenings, about 170,000 in all, to mostly low-income and marginalized women. Now, nobody is against breast cancer screenings for the poor. But once an indigent or uninsured woman gets the free mammogram, and it comes up positive, what then? Who is going to pay for her treatment? Cute teddy bears? Volunterrorists in pink baseball caps? Consumer philanthropists eating “Crunch for the Cure” junk food? “Early detection” doesn’t mean shit if the early detectee is just left flapping in the breeze.
Listen everyone, Komen doesn’t prevent cancer, and Komen doesn’t pay for breast cancer treatment. It “raises awareness” through “early detection” and funds “research” focused on pharmaceutical cures for cancers that many of Komen’s corporate sponsors might likely have a hand in causing in the first place. Of the 11 Austin-area Komen grant recipients, for example, only one, WINGS, lists “comprehensive no-cost breast cancer treatment” in its list of services. The other 10 focus almost exclusively on diagnostics, “education,” and “patient navigation” (“patient navigation”? What the heck is that, they throw indigent patients in a boat and make’m row for the cure?).
I hasten to point out that WINGS received only $218,000 from Komen-Austin in 2011. That might sound like a lot, and it is, but in terms of cancer treatment it’s a drop in the bucket (for example, my own little foray into the cutthroat world of breast cancer patienthood has cost well over $100,000 so far. Although I have insurance, about $50,000 of that amount was out-of-pocket for designer drugs and genetic testing that insurance wouldn’t cover). So, out of all the women in the Austin area who have breast cancer — a lot, since 1 out of 7 women get it at some point — there’s only enough Komen loot to pay for the treatment of — I’ll be generous — 2.5 of them. And that’s if WINGS doesn’t spend any money on anything else, and that’s if the women go to San Antonio for their free treatment, because WINGS has no affiliation with any health care providers in Austin.
In other words, Komen doesn’t give a shit about poor women, so the hell with those who look to Planned Parenthood for a free breast exam.* With politics clearly a greater priority than women’s health, it’s no surprise that Komen is, quoth Jackson, “allied with those who misrepresent medical and public health evidence, including about causes of breast cancer.”
Nefarious Komen VP Karen Handel is not alone in her misogynist agenda. Board member Jane Abraham is also affiliated with some very nasty groups. You know those crisis pregnancy centers where lying liar godbags lie to pregnant ladies about abortions causing breast cancer and other spurious shit? Jane Abraham is, like, the queen of those things. Meanwhile, says Jackson,
you don’t see too many folks working with the Komen Foundation who are out there pounding the pavement on, say, the possible links between environmental toxins and breast cancer, causal links between which make the corporate partners of Komen very, very nervous.
Komen is the most visible brand in the whole cancer industrial complex. It disguises itself as some big altruistic community effort for women’s health, but it’s really just another conservative, honky organization with a misogynist political agenda. A marketing juggernaut instrumental in raking in piles of cash for and cleansing the tarnished images of its evil corporate sponsors, Komen has successfully brainwashed millions to believe that the “problem” of women’s health can be solved by licking yogurt lids.
* In fact, the whole Komen-driven breast cancer “movement” is centered around middle-class white women. Drop by any pinkathon on race day if you need corroboration.